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Missouri prepares for 4th execution in 4 months amid court appeals and clemency request

A man convicted of abducting, raping and killing a Kansas City teenager in 1989 will be executed using a lethal drug provided by a new supplier if last-minute appeals Tuesday don't stay Missouri's fourth execution in as many months.

Michael Taylor of Kansas City was scheduled to die by injection at 12:01 a.m. Wednesday. Appeals before the U.S. Supreme Court and the Eighth U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals sought a reprieve, while Gov. Jay Nixon weighed a clemency request.

Taylor's attorneys have questioned Missouri's use of an unnamed compounding pharmacy to provide the pentobarbital for his execution. They have also raised concerns that the state executes men before appeals are complete, and claim Taylor's original trial attorney was so overworked that she encouraged him to plead guilty to lessen her own workload.

After years of using a three-drug execution method, Missouri switched to pentobarbital as a single fatal drug late last year. State officials say there were no outward signs of distress in three recent executions that all relied on a single dose of pentobarbital.

Last week, the Oklahoma-based Apothecary Shoppe agreed that it would not supply the pentobarbital for Taylor's execution. Attorney General Chris Koster's office announced in a court filing on Feb. 19 that a new provider had been found, but has refused to name the pharmacy, citing the state's execution protocol that allows for the manufacturer to remain anonymous. Taylor's attorneys say use of the drug without naming the compounding pharmacy could cause the inmate pain and suffering because no one can check if the operation is legitimate and has not been accused of any violations.

"We have no idea about the track record of this pharmacy," Taylor's attorney, John Simon, said.

Pete Edlund doesn't want to hear it. Edlund, 69 and retired from the Kansas City Police Department, led the investigation into Ann Harrison's death. Taylor, 47, and Roderick Nunley were convicted of abducting, raping and killing the 15-year-old girl in Kansas City in 1989.

"Cruel and unusual punishment would be if we killed them the same way they killed Annie Harrison," Edlund said. "Get a damn rope, string them up, put them in the gas chamber. Whatever it takes."

Ann Harrison was waiting for the school bus on the morning of March 22, 1989, when Nunley and Taylor, then in their early 20s, drove past in a car they had stolen after a night while binging on crack cocaine.

One of the men jumped out of the car and grabbed Ann, forcing her into the vehicle. Both have claimed the other did it.

The men drove to the home of Nunley's mother. Ann was forced into the basement and raped — DNA testing linked Taylor. Afraid she would be able to identify them, the men used kitchen knives to stab the girl repeatedly, even as Ann begged for her life and offered money if they would let her live. She died about 30 minutes later.

Taylor and Nunley put her in the trunk of the stolen car, abandoned the car in a neighborhood then walked away.

The body was found three days later. Edlund said the crime went unsolved for about six months. A $10,000 reward led to a tip, and Taylor and Nunley were both arrested. Both pleaded guilty and were sentenced to death in 1991. After their sentences were overturned, they were again sentenced to death in 1994.

Missouri could be on pace for a record number of executions in 2014. Last week, the Missouri Supreme Court set a March 26 execution date for Jeffrey Ferguson, convicted of abducting, raping and killing a 17-year-old girl in St. Charles 25 years ago. Several other inmates on death row have also exhausted all but last-minute court appeals and could soon face execution.

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